4/19/18

Walt Disney World with Special Dietary Needs | SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan & Beyond

Walt Disney World with Special Dietary Needs

Walt Disney World with Special Dietary Needs
"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
Walt Disney

Food plays such an important role in our daily lives, it only makes sense that it is a vital part of our vacation. When we booked our trip to Walt Disney World I was so excited, yet very hesitant about the options for dining out. The SCD diet is extremely strict and while eating out is very doable and realistic, it does pose a challenge. When I think of our clean eating lifestyle, amusement parks don’t necessarily fit into that equation.

So, here’s the big question; “Are you able to eat in Walt Disney World if you follow a restrictive diet?”

The answer is YES!

I am thrilled to say that Disney World went above and beyond our expectations with restrictive diets and allergies. But, with that being said, it’s important to understand that it takes some work on your end to make this happen. The one thing I have learned since my son’s diagnosis with Crohn’s disease and our decision to live a healthy, clean lifestyle is that we need to use our voices. We need to speak up, we need to ask questions, we need to question others and we need do our research!

In hopes of helping others who are in a similar situation to ours, I have outlined our dining agenda in Walt Disney World below and have included some tips and suggestions that I found useful.

Do Your Research Before Planning.
Before making any reservations, I thoroughly looked into each and every restaurant in Disney as well as the many hotels and resorts. Since this was our first time to the park, and we don’t plan on visiting too many more times, we decided to splurge and stay within the park at the Grand Floridian. This resort also happened to have a couple restaurants that were highly rated. Unfortunately, the higher rated restaurants come with a higher price tag. As I mentioned above, food plays an important role in our vacations and dining out is a part of the experience for us. Since we tend to indulge, after crunching the numbers, we did purchase the Deluxe Dining Plan. While this plan is not for everyone and the restaurants we visited will not be for all budgets, it is possible to find a plan (or forgo a plan) and restaurants that do meet your budget. Just remember to take your time and do your research. I purchased “The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2018” and it was a huge help in determining what restaurants we would visit. It was also a wonderful comprehensive guide to the park. Remember, you can research almost all the restaurants online and view the menus before making your decisions.

Make Reservations and Include Your Restrictions and Allergies.
The great thing about going to Disney is that everything can be planned in advance; from hotel accommodations, to tickets, to dining reservations and even your Fast Past time slots. Once you create an account on the Disney website and begin to book your trip, you will be able to sign in and make advance reservations for dining. While you are filling out the information for the reservations, you can add notes about your allergies and dietary requirements. These notes will then be visible to the wait and kitchen staff and most likely, the chef will visit table-side to confirm each allergy and restriction. You will also be provided a special allergy menu, which is a modified version of their standard menu. While this menu is still not SCD legal, it acts as a good guide and is an excellent starting point.

Since it is imperative that we follow the SCD diet, I actually took it a step further and reached out to Disney’s Guest Services so I could verbally speak with someone about our restrictions. After speaking with a representative, we then filled out a detailed Guest Allergy/Dietary Request Form where we indicated each allergy/intolerance, noted our restaurant reservations with their date, time and confirmation number and were able to add detailed notes about the SCD diet and the reasons we follow it.

Here is a brief summary of our schedule and a list of the restaurants we dined in and a few quick thoughts:

Day One.
Grand Floridian Café | The Grand Floridian (lunch)
We dined here for a quick lunch. We entered Magic Kingdom early and quickly learned our mistake for the day was entering the park with no lunch plans! Before any kids had a breakdown, we jumped on the monorail and ate a quick lunch in our resort. The food was exactly what we were looking for and Jonas was able to eat a veggie omelet and fruit.

Jiko| Animal Kingdom Resort (dinner)
This African Fusion restaurant is located in Animal Kingdom Lodge and is highly rated. While they were very accommodating and the food was good, I’m not sure we would dine here again. This wasn’t actually located in the park, so when we decided to head to the park for the Avatar ride we had to wait for the bus to pick us up at the resort. Again, the food was good and the chef was extremely accommodating to our needs, but the dishes were complex and a little more difficult to alter to a SCD/Paleo/Clean lifestyle.

Day Two.
Breakfast in the room (see notes below on this.)

Tiffins | Animal Kingdom (lunch)

This highly rated, yet pricey, restaurant was probably our favorite. The service was excellent, our waiter was very knowledgeable on the dishes, food and spirits and they had several seafood options, including sustainable fish. Jonas was able to have an altered version of the grilled octopus appetizer, the swordfish dish and then a cheese platter with honey and fruit for dessert. We also loved the location since it was in the heart of Pandora, our favorite section of Animal Kingdom. In the future, I would make diner reservations followed by Fast Past to Avatar and the Na’vi River.

Cítricos | The Grand Floridian (dinner)
The convenience of dining in our hotel was great and again, the service was excellent and they were very accommodating to our needs. For this dinner, we ordered off the allergy menu, which was essentially the same as the regular menu but tweaked to avoid the common allergies. Our son opted for a simplified version of the sea scallops, served with butter and roasted vegetables. The salads and appetizers were difficult to alter to our needs, so they created a salad with olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar. Unfortunately, dessert was difficult, but our son was happy with a cheese plate and fruit. You were able to see the fireworks from the restaurant, an added bonus.

Day Three.
Breakfast in the room.

Backlot Express | Hollywood Studios (lunch)
Since we spent our time in Hollywood Studios with a guided Star Wars Tour, our lunch was included and the options were very minimal. However, we went over our allergies and dietary requirements, and again, Disney met our expectations! We opted for the salad, oil and vinegar for the dressing and veggies. The chicken they serve was previously marinated so they grilled off a piece that was seasoned with just salt and pepper.

Narcoossee’s | The Grand Floridian (dinner)
This was probably the easiest dining experience and our son’s favorite restaurant, particularly because he loves seafood and they served classic dishes. The artesian cheeses are a great option for a starter, but be cautious to avoid any cured meats as they may be cured with sugar and additives. As for the entrees, any of the seafood dishes can be prepared without sauces and my husband talked in detail with the chef about the butter poached lobster, which was cooked sous vide in a butter lemon mixture. My son decided to go with the grass-fed filet, minus the reduction sauce (most sauces will have a starch added to it and sugar) and a hollandaise instead. Hollandaise is our secret go-to sauce! In most high-end restaurants, it should be simply butter, egg yoks, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne. He skipped the sides and opted for plain, roasted vegetables. This restaurant also has a great view for the fireworks.

Day Four.
San Angel Inn Restaurante | Epcot
Mexican food can be a little tricky and requires you to ask several questions, but it is doable while on a restrictive diet. We opted for Carnitas de Puerco with plain roasted pineapple and zucchini, no rice or beans and no sauce. There is a chance this slowly braised pork was not 100% SCD compliant and in the future I would recommend a plain all-natural grilled chicken breast, which is also on the menu. When eating Mexican avoid the salsa as it is likely to have added sugar and make sure to inquire about the ingredients in the guacamole.

Starbucks | Epcot
Our son was craving a smoothie and I thought I would try Starbucks to see if they could accommodate our needs. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by their willingness to work with us and our dietary needs. They pulled me aside and had me look through the ingredient binder, although I knew most ingredients in the smoothie were a no-no. They worked with us to create a banana, fresh pineapple and freeze dried blackberry smoothie.

Organize Snacks for the Park.
This is a MUST! We managed to avoid any meltdowns and I think a key reason is because we were prepared. Take plenty of snacks and water into the park. There are several areas to replenish your water. If you want to pack a lunch that is a great option, but we decided not to do that since we stayed in the park. However, we did take a backpack and I carried a Patagonia cross body that had plenty of room for a bag of fruit, nuts and trail mix, fruit strips and snack bars.

I highly recommend placing a delivery order with a local grocery store. I easily placed an order with Whole Foods (see this link here) and was able to stock up on breakfast items, fruit, veggies and snacks. Another suggestion is to check a cooler or container at the airport and fill it up with your own snacks from home. This is a great way to bring your homemade yogurt (simply pack in a glass jar, wrap in an icepack and then wrap in a towel) and snacks that can be purchased at a better price. We almost always travel with this wine cooler that is insulated and perfect for bringing our own food – and wine!

Make Sure to Bring Medicine.
I know it sounds like stating the obvious, but when you become consumed with packing food and clothes for a trip you can easily forget the basics! When we travel I always bring all medicine and supplements, probiotics, activated charcoal to offset any ingested toxins, mini travel packs of collagen, Nalgene water bottles to make sure we stay hydrated, Benadryl, a mini medical kit, pain reliever and my Epi-pen for my garlic allergy.


I hope you find this lengthy post helpful and perhaps it will ease any jitters you may have with traveling to Walt Disney World while following strict dietary requirements. Whether you are on the SCD diet, follow a Paleo lifestyle, are gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, I assure you there are plenty of options! Do your research, call ahead and be prepared.

If you have other questions about traveling with a clean-eating lifestyle check out this post I wrote about Traveling Tips for the SCD Diet and How To Eat Healthy at an Amusement Park.


3 comments:

  1. I like looking through an article that can make people think.
    Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!

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  2. Thank you for writing this! We are planning on a long WDW vacation later this year, I'm I'm scared about how my son with Crohn's will be able to eat. I have been looking for postings about SCD dining and was pleased to find yours. I have one question, however. What about eating at the quick service dining? Since those don't take reservations, do you have any advice for communicating with the dining locations?

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  3. Very nice article, just what I was looking for.

    ReplyDelete

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